Categories
Leonard Cohen

Sincerely, L. Cohen (Canada Loses its Beautiful Loser Icon)

Poet Father. Spirit Walker. Writer Father. Creative Teacher. Guru.

I knew it would happen eventually. He was in his 80s, right. He even announced that he might be ready. Even though he took it back…I still felt the illness of the possibility of losing him. The problem is, I was never able to imagine a world without Leonard Cohen. Today he has left us. Canada has gotten so much smaller…I can hardly see it. Canadiana itself has taken a blow today. Who we are, how we see ourselves. From the Atlantic to the Pacific…we were a Leonard Cohen nation. I don’t know how to do this without him. Who will be our voice? Our teacher? Our Poet? Our Guru?

15055847_10153920685352021_5666885627119086109_n
IS ALL THE WORLD A PRAYER TO SOME STAR? ARE THEY WARM AND ROYAL, THE RAGS OF DEATH?

I have just been flipping through the pages of an old copy of Leonard’s novel THE FAVOURITE GAME. All the highlighted passages have me feeling nostalgic for nostalgia. If I can read them all, take them in once more, I might bring him back to breath.

The world was being hoaxed by a disciplined melancholy. All the sketches made a virtue of longing. All that was necessary to be loved widely was to publish one’s anxieties. The whole enterprise of art was a calculated display of suffering.” ~ L. Cohen, The Favourite Game

That one stands out quite illuminatingly among the vast sea of highlighted quotes. He is loved for his ability to stab a heart with frank honesty and emotion. He gave us himself in all his struggles, all his worries, all his anxieties.

I told this story before, but I will tell it again…to illustrate the profound effect Leonard Cohen has had on my creative life…

During the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon I listened to Cohen’s ANTHEM non-stop. For 48 hours. Looped over and over and over and over again. I wrote my novel SEBASTIAN’S POET in a fugue state…channeling the Canadian icon all the way through the marathon. For those of you who later read SEBASTIAN’S POET, you will know that the only thing that made the main ‘Poet’ character different than Leonard is the character’s name. TEAL LANDEN is Leonard Cohen in every way. It’s blatant and see-through, how much a modeled my character after Leonard. I had always seen Leonard as a father figure…a saviour figure. He is someone who would swoop in and save you. I needed to have his type of character in a story. I wrote the novel because of him.

41r3pzq-e1l
Sebastian’s Poet, my homage to the great Leonard Cohen.

I was thrilled when Cohen’s manager gave his blessing/permission for me to use the line from ANTHEM that I love so much as an epigraph at the beginning of my novel. THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING, THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN. Using it was a nod to what was to follow it…the theft of a character. I also went one step further and had the line tattooed on my forearm…so I could read it whenever I felt the weight of the world dragging me down. I will be reading it a lot in the coming weeks.

I was blessed to have seen Leonard in concert a couple times. I was humbled to be in one of HIS audiences! It was the most diverse audience I had ever been in. Not only were there ten year olds and eighty year olds, and everyone in between, but it seemed every race was represented, every walk of life represented. There were businessmen and bikers, nerds and rockers, grandmothers and drifters, school girls and hooligans. It felt like a cross-section of the world had gathered together in his name. And it overwhelmed me. There was a man in front of me at one concert who was too big to fit into his chair. He had obviously struggled to get there. And he was uncomfortable and in obvious distress before Leonard came on. Once Leonard took to the stage, the gentleman forgot his worries and woes and he leaned down upon the arms of his chair and he began to listen. And then he was moved to tears to be in the presence of the greatness that was Leonard Cohen. It moved me to see him forgetting his distress and losing himself in the song and the voice he had come to see, at a great expense to his own personal well-being and pride.

Then I continued to look about me. The overweight man was not the only one with tears streaming down his face. I soon realized it was a thing. It was a Leonard-Cohen-Concert-Attendee thing. And in realizing it, I fell victim to it. I wept too. We had ensconced ourselves into the Church of Leonard Cohen. And it was beautiful. It left me wordless, breathless, empowered. It left me CANADIAN.

Poems I have written for Leonard Cohen…

POET (FOR LEONARD COHEN)

He is not yet comfortable
in his sparse new threads,
his Emperor’s clothing
borrowed from a man
no longer in need of illusions.

He is tempted by the romance of ellipses
those awkward little word bridges
falling,
like lead-bellied butterflies
on either end of his fractured thoughts.

He dreams of Cohen,
spots him dancing
on dimly lit street corners
spouting bravado to passers-by…music to his hibernating
nocturnal mind,
but only when he’s sailing past Mont-real
sleeping shot-gun
two a.m.
through the orange glow
of veiny French highways.

Cohen fragments,
dissipates,
refuses to accompany him
past the tunnel’s luminous threshold.

The crusty St. Lawrence–shrewd river mother–
stands guard over its aged Icons,
especially in the realm of dreams
where such beatific creatures
tend to get lost,
caught up in the fancies of dreaming poets
hurling recklessly throughout the darkened night

© 2007 Kevin Craig

 

LEONARD COHEN IS IN TORONTO

There’s a monster poet in town,
a laureate linguist, circus clown.
You can hear his heartbeat
in the city’s newfound heat,
the strum of bellows
in his liquid lungs, in flex.
I’ll take communion
within the milky thighs
of his every waking word,
take refuge in the spring
he calls to life
with his fervent golden voice.
There’s a God of light in town,
an ancient thread to beauty gone.
You can see his glow
above the night,
lift your hands into the bright,
and with nothing on your tongue
but a cold and broken hallelujah.

 

The Farmer’s Wife

(A retelling of an incident in the lives of Leonard Cohen and Irving Layton)

The farmer’s wife,

perhaps with a hint of a smile

on her wind-hardened face,

traces her willowy hands

through the work-stained apron

that covers her solid frame.

She has but one word

for the marauding poets,

stranded by the highway, laughing.

consecutive trips find them wanting…

what with opening the cosmos

with their wakening words,

they drove on in the midnight dark,

not stopping for the needed fuel

that would bring them to their now-forgotten destiny.

Running a hand across her weary brow,

she sighs,

looks to a sky not yet bruised

to the plum of dawn.

“Poets!” she exclaims

with a weariness bred of morning labour.

She walks away from the door,

leaving Layton to lean on its splintery frame,

while Cohen, sitting still in the dew

of his wakening mind, titters,

unable to believe the fortune

of landing, yet again,

on this kind woman’s porch.

Poets traveling onward of a night

can never be trusted

to find their distant shore…

but a beacon in dust,

a work-weary Mother of men,

they will trip upon lightly,

She, a harvest of needful things,

brought forth by the patron saint

resurrected to protect

the flighty of mind,

the absent men of omnipotent vision,

and masters of words un-spun.

 

 

 

Rest In Peace, sweet Prince and King of our Great Nation. You were loved. You were needed. You were appreciated. We will miss your golden voice forever. May you find your rightful place in the Tower of Song. You did well and you did good, Leonard Cohen. I will miss you always.

LEONARD COHEN

September 21st, 1934 – November 10th, 2016

RIP

a nation grieves

 

Categories
Best Adult Novel Award Kevin Craig Muskoka Novel Marathon Sebastian's Poet

Sebastian’s Poet – Redo (Bringing Back the 70s)

The long journey to my second novel, Sebastian’s Poet, began in the 1970s. And it ended in a 48-hour maelstrom of a writing marathon. Sebastian has always been there. It wasn’t until I sat in front of my laptop at the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon that his story bled from me. And boy did it bleed. In those 48 hours I was transported back to the 70s childhood I endured. And having always imagined Sebastian, the child of a down and out no-good and his hit-the-road wife, it was all I could do to keep up with the story as it came out during that marathon weekend.

I love a good story of loss and despair and, in the tiniest of ways, hope. Every good downtrodden story should offer the reader a glimmer of hope, even if it’s an infinitesimal glimmer.

And, having come to age inside a record store in the early 70s, I had to include the perennial bad-boy musician who kind of floats through the world in a cloud of smoke and philosophical optimism. Teal Landon is my favourite character…out of all the characters I have ever written. He is the kind of father figure all lost boys dream of having.

Sebastian’s Poet was originally published in 2012 by Musa Publishing in the United States. Sadly, Musa closed its doors a few months back. This made SP revert to a non-published novel. My favourite novel written by me and it disappeared. It’s very special to me…in that it came to life in a frenzy of emotion and drive and creativity. It’s not easy to write a novel in 48hrs. Until I tackled SP, I would have said it was impossible. But then I did it.

And at the time I desperately wanted to write CANADIANA. I wanted to capture Toronto, and the Canadian music scene, and what it was like to grow up Canadian in the 70s. I think I did that, though I can’t really be objective about it. What I do know is that Sebastian’s Poet won BEST ADULT NOVEL in the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon. And I also know that it transformed me. I went away from that weekend with a feeling of euphoria. I knew I had found MY WRITING METHOD. Writing a novel in one sitting was the way for me, a flighty easily distracted person, to write a novel.

The pictures above are reflections from the 70s setting of the novel. GORDON LIGHTFOOT is actually a character in Sebastian’s Poet. He appears in the last chapter, as part of the denouement. And, if I’m being completely honest, the main character TEAL LANDON is based upon the incomparable LEONARD COHEN. I didn’t see a way to write a story based in the 70s without somehow including Carol Burnett. I loved making references to the things of my childhood…but make no mistake about it, this novel has nothing of me in it. It is not my Mary-Sue.

I don’t like SP not being out there in the world. It is, after all, my favourite. When I say my favourite, I’m talking feelings. I carry the memories of the experience of writing my novels as a way of judging which are my favourites. And the time I shared with these characters? That time is my Belle Époque as a writer. It was a moment of awakening for me. Or, should I say a 48hr period of awakening. My soul is in this book.

So I am releasing it on KOBO, for those interested in exploring the novel I wrote at my highest point as a writer. I don’t usually worry about how my works will be received. I put them out into the world and I shudder and cringe, knowing they will never be what I intended them to be…that they could have been so much more…that I fell short. I can’t expect the reader to love something I myself feel didn’t quite make the grade. Although this may sound like a bad thing, I do tend to think that it keeps me honest as a writer. If everything COULD be better, then I challenge myself always to attain BETTER.

But Sebastian’s Poet was the one novel I was SURE of…even in its rough finished draft at the end of that 48hr weekend, I knew. And here’s where it sounds like I am bragging, but I assure you I am not. It’s more the essence of the story and the feelings I had while writing it that make me feel like this about it…not the finished product itself.

SP will be available on KOBO in the next day or so. I hope you give it a go. In the meantime, here is the cover blurb:

Sebastian Nelson is a boy in search of a family. Abandoned by his mother, Sebastian is left with a broken father who doesn’t even seem present when he does show up. Forced to be the main caregiver of his younger brother, Renee, and lost in a sea of indifference, Sebastian only wants to experience the love a real, stable family could afford him.

One morning he discovers the famous folksinger, Teal Landen, asleep on the sofa. Teal’s nurturing nature brings an immediate sense of security into Sebastian’s tumultuous life. But a dark secret looms between Teal and Sebastian’s father of a hidden past. Sebastian is driven to discover their secret, but also he’s aware of how tenuous their hold on Teal really is. He doesn’t want to lose the feeling of home Teal’s presence has brought him.

If Sebastian pushes too hard, he could lose Teal forever. He could be destined to raise his younger brother alone, while witnessing the total decline of his emotionally devastated father. If Sebastian is abandoned by the only healthy influence in his otherwise shaky existence, he will also be forever in the dark about the secret that will reveal so much about his fractured family.

And you can also read the reviews at GOODREADS, from its original release life: GOODREADS SEBASTIAN’S POET

 

Here’s the cover of the re-release coming to KOBO soon…

Sebastian's Poet

The epigraph of this novel is “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING…THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.” This is a line from Leonard Cohen’s ANTHEM. That song was the soundtrack of my 48hr weekend novel writing marathon. On repeat…it gave me what I needed to write Sebastian’s story…and the story of the folksinger known as The Poet. It was an amazing weekend…one I will never forget. If you want to take the trip, you’ll have to get the novel. (-:

Categories
Leonard Cohen Music

Leonard Cohen is in Toronto

OLD IDEAS

In 2008, when Leonard Cohen arrived in Toronto, I wrote a celebratory poem. Before I share it here, I wanted to say a few words about Mr. Cohen’s return last night to the city of my dreams.

In ’08 I said, “I need to be at that concert. This may be his last tour!” I could still be right. Turns out he’s been touring ever since. He was a young man in ’08…a mere 74-years old. Now, at 78, Mr. Cohen is still delivering. This iconic legend of the Canadian stage can do no wrong!

Near the beginning of last night’s performance L. Cohen said, “I didn’t sing for fifteen years and now you can’t get rid of me.” The dear man has no idea how many loyal and prayerfully devoted fans he has. Nobody would ever in a million years want to get rid of him! He followed this with, “We might not see each other ever again. Tonight we’ll give you everything we’ve got!”

Then, he proceeded to do just that. He skipped, he danced, he swayed, he celebrated each and every person on the stage, behind the stage and in front of the stage…he did it all. His recital of the lyrics to A THOUSAND KISSES DEEP hushed the audience to the pin-drop point…and his leathery, yet beautifully charming voice went up like a prayer as he let the words drop like aves to the spellbound masses assembled at his feet.

Once again, his show was beautiful…from beginning to end. Leonard Cohen is a man who appreciates what he has. He values his words and his adorers. He values those who assemble with him to deliver his evening masses…from the technicians to the beautiful Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters. I came home from last night’s concert LIFTED. Being in his soulful presence is an experience one can’t imagine until they’ve been there. The man who was born with the gift of a golden voice has new worshippers this morning. Well done, L. Cohen…well done!

And now…the poem I wrote upon Mr. Cohen’s last arrival to Toronto:

LEONARD COHEN IS IN TORONTO

There’s a monster poet in town,
a laureate linguist, circus clown.
You can hear his heartbeat
in the city’s newfound heat,
the strum of bellows
in his liquid lungs, in flex.
I’ll take communion
within the milky thighs
of his every waking word,
take refuge in the spring
he calls to life
with his fervent golden voice.
There’s a God of light in town,
an ancient thread to beauty gone.
You can see his glow
above the night,
lift your hands into the bright,
and with nothing on your tongue
but a cold and broken hallelujah.

Last night’s SET LIST:

First Set

Dance Me to the End of Love

The Future

Bird on the Wire

Everybody Knows

Who by Fire

Darkness

Ain’t No Cure for Love

Amen

Come Healing

In My Secret Life

A Thousand Kisses Deep (a recitation)

Different Sides

Anthem

Second Set

Tower of Song

Suzanne

Waiting for the Miracle

Anyhow

I Can’t Forget

The Partisan

Feels So Good

Alexandra Leaving (Sharon Robinson)

I’m Your Man

Hallelujah

Take This Waltz

Encore

So Long, Marianne

Going Home

First We Take Manhattan

If It Be Your Will (the Webb Sisters)

Closing Time

Stay well, Leonard. (-: